This section is from the book "Studies of American Fungi: Mushrooms, Edible, Poisonous, Etc.", by George Francis Atkinson. Also available from Amazon: Studies of American Fungi: Mushrooms, Edible, Poisonous, Etc..
In the genus Fistulina the tubes, or pores, are crowded together, but stand separately, that is, they are not connected together, or grown together into a stratum as in Boletus and other genera of the family Polyporaceae. When the plant is young the tubes are very short, but they elongate with age.
Fistulina hepatica Fr. Edible. - This is one of the largest of the species in the genus and is the most widely distributed and common one. It is of a dark red color, very soft and juicy. It has usually a short stem which expands out into the broad and thick cap. When young the upper side of the cap is marked by minute elevations of a different color, which suggest the papillae on the tongue; in age the tubes on the under surface have also some such suggestive appearance. The form, as it stands outward in a shelving fashion from stumps or trees, together with the color and surface characters, has suggested several common names, as beef tongue, beef-steak fungus, oak or chestnut tongue. The plant is 10-20 cm. long, and 8-15 cm. broad, the stem very short and thick, sometimes almost wanting, and again quite long. I have seen some specimens growing from a hollow log in which the stems were 12-15 cm. long.
The pileus is very thick, 2 cm. or more in thickness, fleshy, soft, very juicy, and in wet weather very clammy and somewhat sticky to the touch. When mature there are lines of color of different shades extending out radially on the upper surface, and in making a longitudinal section of the cap there are quite prominent, alternating, dark and light red lines present in the flesh. The tubes, short at first, become 2-3 mm. long, they are yellowish or tinged with flesh color, becoming soiled in age. The spores are elliptical, yellowish, and 5-6 µ long.
The plant occurs on dead trunks or stumps of oak, chestnut, etc., in wet weather from June to September. 1 have usually found it on chestnut.
The beef-steak fungus is highly recommended by some, while others are not pleased with it as an article of food. It has an acid flavor which is disagreeable to some, but this is more marked in young specimens and in those not well cooked. When it is sliced thin and well broiled or fried, the acid taste is not marked.
Fistulina pallida B. & Rav. (Fistulina firma Pk.) - This rare and interesting species was collected by Mrs. A. M. Hadley, near Manchester, New Hampshire, October, 1898, and was described by Dr. Peck in the Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club, 26: 70, 1899, as Fistiilina firma. But two plants were then found, and these were connected at the base. During August and September it was quite common in a small woods near Ithaca, N. Y., and was first collected growing from the roots of a dead oak stump, August 4 (No. 3227 C. U. herbarium), and afterward during October. During September I collected it at Blowing Rock, N. C, in the Blue Ridge mountains, at an elevation of nearly 5000 feet, growing from the roots of a dead white oak tree. It was collected during September, 1899, by Mr. Frank Rathbun at Auburn, N. Y. It was collected by Ravenel in the mountains of South Carolina, around a white oak stump by Peters in Alabama, and was first described by Berkeley in 1872, in Grev. 1: 71, Notices of N. A. F. No. 173. Growing from roots or wood underneath the surface of the ground, the plant has an erect stem, the length of the stem depending on the depth at which the root is buried, just as in the case of Polyporus radicatus, which has a similar habitat. The plants are 5-12 cm. high, the cap is 3-7 cm. broad, and the stem 6-8 mm. in thickness.
Plate 65., Fig. i. - Fistulina hepatica. Fig. 2. - F. pallida.
Plate 66, Figure 180
Fistulina pallida. Cap wood-brown to fawn or clay color, tubes and lower part of the stem whitish (natural size). Copyright.
The pileus is wood brown to fawn, clay color or isabelline color. It is nearly semi-circular to reniform in outline, and the margin broadly crenate, or sometimes lobed. The stem is attached at the concave margin, where the cap is auriculate and has a prominent boss or elevation, and bent at right angles with a characteristic curve. The pileus is firm, flexible, tough and fibrous, flesh white. The surface is covered with a fine and dense tomentum. The pileus is 5-8 mm. thick at the base, thinning out toward the margin. The tubes are whitish, 2-3 mm. long and 5-6 in the space of a millimeter. They are very slender, tubular, the mouth somewhat enlarged, the margin of the tubes pale cream color and minutely mealy or furfuraceous, with numerous irregular, roughened threads. The tubes often stand somewhat separated, areas being undeveloped or younger, so that the surface of the under side is not regular. The tubes are not so crowded as is usual in the Fistulina hepatica. They are not decurrent, but end abruptly near the stem. The spores are subglobose, 3 µ in diameter. The stem tapers downward, is whitish below, and near the pileus the color changes rather abruptly to the same tint as the pileus. The stem is sometimes branched, and two or three caps present, or the caps themselves may be joined, as well as the stems, so that occasionally very irregular forms are developed, but there is always the peculiar character of the attachment of the stem to the side of the cap.
Figure 180 is from plants (No 3676, C. U. herbarium) collected at Blowing Rock, N. C, September, 1899. Figures on the colored plate represent this plant.
Polyporus frondosus Fr. Edible. - This plant occurs in both Europe and America, and while not very common seems to be widely distributed. It grows about old stumps or dead trees, from roots, often arising from the roots below the surface of the ground, and also is found on logs. The plant represents a section of the genus Polyporus, in which the body, both the stem and the cap, are very much branched. In this species the stem is stout at the base, but it branches into numerous smaller trunks, which continue to branch until finally the branches terminate in the expanded and leaf-like caps as shown in Figs. 181-182. The plants appear usually during late summer and in the autumn. The species is often found about oak stumps. Some of the specimens are very large, and weigh 10 to 20 pounds, and the mass is sometimes 30 to 60 cm. (1-2 feet) in diameter.
The plant, when young and growing, is quite soft and tender, though it is quite firm. It never becomes very hard, as many of the other species of this family. When mature, insects begin to attack it, and not being tough it soon succumbs to the ravages of insects and decay, as do a number of the softer species of the Polyporaceae. The caps are very irregular in shape, curved, repand, radiately furrowed, sometimes zoned; gray, or hair-brown in color, with a perceptibly hairy surface, the hairs running in lines on the surface. Sometimes they are quite broad and not so numerous as in Plate 67, and in other plants they are narrow and more numerous, as in Plate 68. The tubes are more or less irregular, whitish, with a yellowish tinge when old. From the under side of the cap they extend down on the stem. When the spores are mature they are sometimes so numerous that they cover the lower caps and the grass for quite a distance around as if with a white powder.
This species is edible, and because of the large size which it often attains, the few plants which are usually found make up in quantity what they lack in numbers. Since the plant is quite firm it will keep several days after being picked, in a cool place, and will serve for several meals. A specimen which I gathered was divided between two families, and was served at several meals on successive days. When stewed the plant has for me a rather objectionable taste, but the stewing makes the substance more tender, and when this is followed by broiling or frying the objectionable taste is removed and it is quite palatable. The plants represented in Plates 67 and 68 were collected at Ithaca.
Plate 67, Figure 181
Polyporus frondosus. Caps hair-brown or grayish, tubes white (1/3 natural size, masses often 20-40 cm. in breadth). The caps in this specimen are quite broad, often they are narrower as in Fig. 182. Copyright.
Plate 68, Figure 182 - Polyporus frondosus. Side and under view of a larger cluster (1/3 natural size). Copyright.
There are several species which are related to the frondose polyp-orus which occur in this country as well as in Europe. Polyporus intybaceus Fr., is of about the same size, and the branching, and form of the caps is much the same, but it is of a yellowish brown or reddish brown color. It grows on logs, stumps, etc., and is probably edible. It is not so common at Ithaca as the frondose polyporus.